If an observer from Mars were to land here these days, he would transmit the following telegram to those who sent him: Are you sure you gave me the right address? Is this the wonder state that aspired to be a light unto the nations? Is this the prime minister who promised to make Israel a country where it is fun to live? Is this the nuclear power that is incapable of standing up to the primitive Qassams?
The observer from Mars would return home wondering how a situation developed in which the prime minister does not trust his defense minister, the defense minister scorns his prime minister, both of them are disappointed with the chief of staff and want to fire him, while the chief of staff cannot believe they are throwing him to the dogs because of an operation, which they themselves approved.
During the course of its life, this country has known quite a number of political crises. The difference between what happened in the past and what is happening now is in the character and the level of the politicians of yesteryear. Those leaders, from the establishment of the state until the direct elections system took effect, came from a background of doing and a solid ideology that built the country and its values. Most of the leaders of our day sprouted from political hack territory. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, former minister Dan Meridor, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg - all of them were "children of the generation of Titans." Others climbed the ranks from local wheeling and dealing and are experienced in backroom deals and spin, but they have retained the mentality of small-time hacks. When they talk in elevated language about the country's problems, their authority is built on spin, and their vision is about as high as they themselves were back in the days when people grew forelocks and mustaches. Leaders like Yitzhak Ben Aharon, who presented a strong vision for change before everything went haywire, have faded from our lives. No doubt, this is what David Grossman meant when he spoke about hollow leadership.
The change that occurred in the format of the wheeler-dealer leadership is critical. Olmert, number 32 on the Likud list, became prime minister in the context of a political deal. It is no coincidence that print and television journalist Dan Margalit, who has been a friend of Olmert's for decades, wrote of him that he is not cut from leadership material. The chance way in which each of the three individuals responsible for the Lebanon war obtained his position, and the heat with which they are fighting among themselves, and passing the buck for what has happened back and forth, hint at the end of ideological and high-quality leadership.
The government's weakness starts at the top and is spreading into all areas of government. Diplomatic initiatives, like the Saudi proposal, the European initiative and Syrian President Bashar Assad's offer of peace, are floating in the air, but all that Olmert has to say about them is that "never, for all eternity" will he relinquish the Golan Heights? Is the Golan more precious than true peace with Syria, in the fundamentalist and nuclear Middle East that is being constructed around us?
Our friend America, which had run the world, is deeply embroiled in Iraq. Not only can we not suddenly drop ourselves on America with some failed war, but it is also not certain that our standing as a military power has not been eroded in Washington, and its veto will not protect us forever from international condemnation. The Qassam's success lies in neither the physical damage nor the damage to morale that it is causing in Sderot, but rather mainly in the message that the home front is our Achilles' heel, which invites others to strike at us where it hurts most.
Every failure has a father and a price. After the Yom Kippur War, chief of staff David (Dado) Elazar was replaced by Mordechai (Motte) Gur, and after that, prime minister Golda Meir resigned. After the first Lebanon war, chief of staff Rafael (Raful) Eitan was replaced by Moshe Levy, and after that, prime minister Menachem Begin resigned. Real leadership is not just honor, but also having the ability and the courage to draw conclusions. During the three or four months that have elapsed since the war, the main conclusion has in fact been drawn by Hamas, which has not ceased to launch Qassams. Whereas we are still using the old methods of bombardments and targeted interceptions, which have brought condemnations down on us from the entire world.
With America in Iraq, perhaps for another three years, and Iran building an atomic bomb that is officially designated for use against us, it is necessary to aspire to a diplomatic initiative on the basis of willingness to end the occupation in return for a peace agreement. Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz justly deserve to be fired, because they think small. But a prime minister who, in the current situation, says that he does not have an agenda thereby admits that he is unworthy. He is the one chiefly responsible for what happened, and he should go first.